Guilty Pleasure

Feb 10, 2022 | Baby, Freelancing

I have just handed my baby to a stranger, given her one last forlorn wave, and driven away in my car. On the drive, my body heaves with deep, racking sobs as though she were lost to me forever. 

I am, in fact, going back to fetch her at 5pm. And the stranger is not a stranger at all, but Poppy*, the delightful and achingly qualified nursery key worker whom my daughter loves. It’s January, my year is up, and I am back at my desk with, if not a bang, then certainly a massive to-do list and a timely renewal of my ruinous one-mug-an-hour tea habit. 

I’M BACK, BABY. WHAT DID I MISS?

Well, I can tell you what I’m missing. My daughter. I miss her so much it aches. Her little apple cheeks bulging with peanut butter toast, her porky little giggle when I pretend to wear one of the silicone cake tins as a hat (parental humiliation is her favourite genre), the way her bottom wiggles when she pushes her walker around like a shopping trolley. I miss it all, and the thought of skipping even a moment of her becoming the awesome little person I can see she’s going to be just makes me want to curl up and cry while eating vast quantities of mini eggs. 

And yet. 

I really needed a fucking break. When I say I was desperate for her to go to nursery, I really mean it. There were only so many baby groups I could attend, so many rounds of “Smack Mummy In The Face With A Painted Wooden Spoon” that I could play before she grew bored (and I grew bruised), so many miles I could walk with her strapped to my back before I started to yearn for my desk. The buttery warm feeling of earning my own money and not having to worry about “borrowing” from the joint account. The amber glow that creeps over me when a client tells me she loves what I’ve written for her. The excitement that arrives like clockwork every time a really good brief comes in. You just can’t beat it, and you absolutely cannot do it with a one-year-old in the house (at least, I couldn’t). 

But more than wanting to go back to work, I really needed a respite from the all-encompassing exhaustion that comes with looking after a small person. I mean, there’s nothing like it. She is relentless, merciless even. Something that she loved on Monday, bores her silly on Tuesday. She can fall into a steady routine of napping for two hours every day at 2pm for a month, then one day – as if she’s worried she’s becoming too predictable – she’ll refuse to sleep all day long and become a squalling, red-faced demon for the final four hours of the day. As soon as she realised that Daddy was not, in fact, going very far every morning and could be located in the office in the garden, she began wriggling free of my arms and crawling into the kitchen in order to press herself against the window that overlooks his desk, weeping huge, fat tears of love and whimpering, “DaaaaaaDEEEEEE…!”. Unable to resist her, this trick always brought him back inside for cuddles with more regularity than was conducive to keeping his clients happy. 

When something’s wrong, she can’t properly communicate the issue so she loses her mind. When those teeth (OH MY GOD THE FUCKING TEETH) are easing there way out of her gums, setting her poor little mouth on fire and triggering piercing screams of pain that last for hours, it’s all I can do to keep a slippery hold on my sanity while slathering a dummy with Bonjella and hugging her to my chest, praying for it to end. The last year has been all kinds of magnificent, but it has also completely knocked me for six and left me believing that anyone who raises multiple children for a living ought to be paid a million pounds a year with full benefits. 

So nursery is a go. And it’s a miraculous thing. Suddenly, I have time. I can actually do things. Yesterday, I did four loads of laundry, completed on two clients and reorganized the stationery situation in our office (hey, whatever makes you happy). And the best bit? She loves nursery. Bar the occasional whimper at drop-off, she seems to enjoy the new space, the new toys, the other kids and the general step-change that it’s brought about. She was getting bored of me. Plain and simple. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t love me, it just means that this particular child (and this particular mum) is not designed for full-time. We need time off from one another and there is no shame in admitting that.

Do I feel guilty about enjoying time away from my baby? Yes. Do I worry that she’ll take her first proper steps at nursery instead of at home and hold it against me forever? Weirdly, yes. But do I know in my heart of hearts that good, effective childcare is the difference between a harmonious, happy home and a madhouse inhabited by jibbering emotional wrecks running around with their hair on fire? 

ALSO YES. 

I hear the phrase “mum guilt” bandied about all the time, but what about “mum joy”? That feeling of utter freedom one can experience when safe in the knowledge that, for a whole day, someone else is going to keep their child alive for them. Can we talk about that more, please?

*Names changed for obvious reasons

1 Comment

  1. Jan Case

    Fab blog, honest, funny and true and one many many Mums will empathise with xx

    Reply

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